Monthly Archives: January 2014
Public shun any attention nay concern for prisoners. Anything that uplifts the welfare of inmates is viewed as preferential treatment. A single perk tasted by a ward is almost seen as heinous. Indeed, for years, the corrective system has been neglected, almost forgotten and considered least in any administrative activity. The prison community in response, seeking to push itself as part of humanity, tried through resourcefulness to remedy the situation. It invented the perpetual calendar, redesigned its sleeping cot, reshaped its gloomy cells and dormitories, rewrote internal rules, remodeled prison climate and a host of other renovation just to keep skin and bones together, including the quest to retain sanity in an otherwise insane congestion.
A legislator made a snide remark that in other countries where those convicted for violation of illegal drugs law receive death penalty while in the Philippines, a drug convict serves time virtually in comfort. The insinuation is that prison should bear all the hallmarks of torture to exact the proper posture. In another news space on the other hand, government slapped charges and relieved ten policemen who allegedly apply the so-called wheel of torture on detainees. One official says that torture must rule; and in another, torture must never be imposed at all.
Let us revisit the correctional system for purposes of clear thinking and better judgment. Throughout the years, the prison community has evolved from a sanitarium type, hospital model facility into an educational campus and simulated community facility. Gone were the days when prisoners are treated as sick persons. They are now, as rehabilitation dictates, students or learners. Gone were those days when an offender was believed to be possessed and therefore must go through the rigid whipping treatment to drive the demon away. Today, inmates are immediately enrolled in school like atmosphere where skills development is the order of the day.
Throughout the years, with skills mounting and overlapping, perks are built from within. Resources were imported into the prison camp for maintenance and use. Technology is tested and applied. Technology has become a part of the system with prison community at the receiving end. Anything that bogs down can now be repaired. Anything that promotes comfort in the free community can now be duplicated. The inmate learner is almost as competent as his counterpart in the free community. He is better prepared to be released into the mainstream of the free community with prospects that he would never commit any infraction at all. He will turn his back on his misdemeanor and would rather lead the life of a law abiding citizen.
But the free community despite the liberal atmosphere is still conservative at heart. Prison administrators who inherited the prison condition along with what has been seen as perks are now questioned and derided. The perks or anything that contains comfort short of insinuating that offenders should be tortured as the principal face of conviction, must be instantly phased out. It is like marrying a woman, who later would turn out as having a body full of tattoo. The relative of the husband, surprised at the body art, wanted that the wife ought to be skinned if only to remove the marks, notwithstanding the pain and agony that go with its removal.
Which must govern what? What should be the primordial concern? Damn if you do, damn if you don’t.
How do we exactly deal with humanity whether incarcerated or not?
It’s common sense. (The only problem there however is that it is not so common.)
Our penal system can only accommodate so much but it cannot restrict admission. Unlike theatres with seat assignment or air conditioned buses, prison camps could only lump humanity on any given space if only to contain the effects of court convictions notwithstanding the fact that it is already filled to the brim. Prison camps’ condition indeed is bad, jails on the other end are even worse.
There lay the curse of congestion on a segment of humanity which lost its quest for innocence and was declared by judiciary fit to serve time as a consequence of an offense committed. Order in the clogged community is set aside for the moment. Regimentation takes a back seat. Security is on double, at regular times, triple time. Shifting schedule is broken into fragments. Textbook rules temporarily reformulated.
Laboratory studies on caged animals yielded results indicating vulnerabilities leading to violence and mayhem. There are no exemptions on creatures acting on impulse and instinct. Violence leads to trouble, injuries and deaths. When violence strikes, it does not even warn at all, it is certain and just that, it strikes. Let no property or warm body ever try to block for it will merely be part of ruins. The curse of congestion is lurking as if it is a part of the correctional landscape.
Dealing with congestion is like venturing into an abyss and marching under the air of mythical blight. It stares and challenges. It provokes and stimulates negative considerations. It is playing into the hands of conflagration. It is virtually being confined in the Intensive Care Unit. This is the situation of the prison officers and not yet the better affected party, the inmates themselves.
Where do we situate the inmates, the denizens, the potential zombies, those who are pejoratively referred to as the undead. They live under pains of overcrowding and the filth that goes with it, restricted by unforgiving walls and armed guards. Breathing infected air and surviving within the dome of contagion. Ailments are common occurrence, smile are never genuine, laughter merely an expression of sadism.
Religiosity sit side by side treachery. Hatred is another term for kindness. Worst is used in the ordinary sense. When a man sleeps beside another, cough within a spitting distance, yell at ear’s reach, then danger is hitched. Ideas are never discussed at all since the sound of the stomach is better heard. Mental health is just a pie in the sky. These are obtained in a congested facility hands down.
Prison is like a metal cauldron filled to the brim held merely by bolts. Tighten the contraptions further to prevent seepage even if the spill over is not from the side is like tightening without torque. When this is done the bolt is broken, the bolt ‘s thread is damaged and eventually, the whole facility explodes and the entire system rendered useless. And the tragic part of guarding the cauldron as it explodes, it is not tightening process that is seen as liable but those around the furnace! It is a case of victims blamed as culprits.
Congestion leads to fatalities and consequently towards injustice. Tragedy becomes farce. Fairness evolves into a mockery. Well, one can loosen the noose once in a while as a spell, why not . Or improvise. Whatever.
Congestion, any one? For those who are within its sphere, God bless your souls!
Looks like the Philippine scene at present has shifted towards an action flick mode. Down South, where rebels congregate, the military is engaged in warfare. In the metropolis, where celebrity bashing is the name of the game, they are all geared for “maul-fare.” We are still conducting a study on how trouble began down South, possibly because of misunderstanding on the terms for peace; at this point, law enforcement agencies are also in the process of conducting on whose fault the mauling incident of a comedian began. Both are strictly within the attentive concern of government—never mind, at the moment, the prevailing poverty, injustice, incompetence.
How are these addressed and who are the protagonists gaining sympathy. In Mindanao, there is the AFP colliding with rebel BIFF. There are fireworks everywhere; each camp has its own casualty count, each corner having gains and losses. Over in Manila on the other hand, the center of news and everything worth poking into, there is TV personality Vhong Navarro pitting complaints against another personality, a strikingly beautiful model, who is herself a complainant.
On the whole, the country is pummeled with complaints left and right, from government forces seeking more equipment to deal with combat woes, to rebels seeking redress and voice; from Vhong seeking succor through lines from the entertainment industry to Deniece seeking assistance from friends. All of them a power house and a force to reckon with.
Meanwhile, restlessness coming down below, those below the poverty line, restlessness born out of hunger, born out of facelessness, born out of desperation, seeking succor from nowhere, seeking attention from nothingness, trying to find peace, trying to find justice, getting nothing except morsels from documentary and nothing more.
We have embraced the New Society during Marcos years; a Strong Republic during the Arroyo term and the Daang Matuwid in current times and still we are struggling to get a piece of sunlight in high noon. The poor has resigned its lot. The planet belongs to a talented few. Justice is everywhere but resides somewhere. Prosperity is only for a few. Success is for a handful.
With that as background, what else are people ought to do? Kung hindi makuha sa bugbugan, barilan na lang ! (If I cannot convince you with my muscles, the bullets will!)
Times while moving on has never changed at all.
For quite sometime, all systems go for the transfer of New Bilibid Prison to an identified area in a military reservation (Fort Magsaysay) in Laur, Nueva Ecija. The die is cast. There is no other way but prepare for the eventual movement of the penal establishment and along with that the migration of personnel. It is inevitable. Government is bent towards this procedure and the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Corrections, has prepared the necessary requirements. That of course was the scenario a few months ago. The process has started 7 years ago.
Last January 22, 2014, the issue of transfer however has shifted. Director of Corrections Franklin Jesus B. Bucayu implored that if at all there is a significant move to be undertaken, it is the improvement of the agency’s capability first before any movement is to be contemplated. Management of prison records must be sustained by advanced technology including the delivery of rehab and security services. While the agency has received a legislative mandate to modernize with the passage of RA 10575, there are no funds as yet appropriated to bankroll its multifaceted provisions.
Director Bucayu’s argument in analogy simple states : why not treat the patient first before he is to be transferred. At the PPP (Private-Public Partnership) Center where a conference on the issue of tapping the private sector in dealing with the institutional problem and proposal of the Bureau of Corrrections is explored, the entry of technical consultancy of JICA has been affirmed. With the formulation of the prison leadership, the shift became apparent. Bucor must first be improved, must first be responsive to the challenges before another concern is to be addressed.
The PPP conference staff took note of the recommendation and thereupon would work towards its notice to the investing stakeholder. That literally shifted the issue of transfer to institutional improvement.
Historically, the move to transfer to another site was a proposal explored during the Vinarao incumbency. A task force was directed to determine an area in Tanay province where a parcel of land was offered by DENR. This was in 2006. In 2008, the issue of transfer was again brought out. In 2009, the site at Tanay was dropped and a site in Laur, Nueva Ecija was studied. NBP’s estate was appraised and whatever its cost would be applied for the building of a new and modern penal facility. The cost however fell short of the estimated building cost.
Congress would rather appropriate billions for farm to market roads than building a penal facility. Roads would jumpstart the economy and virtually would add revenue to government better than a modern facility for offenders that offer no return.
In 2010, it was referred to and taken up in a Neda-PPP conference where a recommendation on a thorough study must be prepared before a PPP form is to be accomplished. The idea is for a private company to advance the cost for the construction in the following the principle of Build-Operate-Transfer scheme. ADB and the technical officers of DBM immediately responded to assist Bucor. A study was completed but before it could be submitted to the PPP Center for inclusion in the discussion form, the prison leadership was changed. Institutional focus on the transfer proposal took a back seat.
Nothing was heard of for more than a year except for pocket meetings among stakeholders and active specialists in the proposal. There was academic silence from all fronts until a notice was called this current time.
PPP Center staff sought for an update on the transfer issue. Accordingly, technical specialists from Japan through JICA (although it would overlap the ADB-DBM initiative) are willing to get into the picture just so the PPP form will be properly accomplished.
And then Director Bucayu submitted his idea on how to approach the proposal: improve Bucor first and later, discuss the reality of transfer. Improving Bucor requires significant fiduciary application. If at all this is done, only loose change would remain to sustain the process of transfer. Director Bucayu has a brilliant point.
Simply put, NBP will never be transferred anymore.
(It would not be surprising if one day, Director Misa’s sculptured bust relief head at the main entrance gate of NBP would be replaced by that of Director Bucayu.)
I chanced upon a government employee who is about to reach the age of 60. And I successfully convinced him for an interview over a cup of coffee.
Interviewer: Sir, I hope you won’t mind if I will ask you a number of questions pertaining your person and your career. I understand that you are already planning for your retirement.
Government employee: That is correct. Several months from now, I will be celebrating my 60th birthday. If I were a Japanese, I would have been 61 already. You see, the counting starts at conception rather than birth in that country. I am by all standards, well as far as this country is concerned, about to become a senior citizen already.
I: But in government, the retirement age is 65. There are even some legislators who are planning to increase it to 70. Why early retirement?
GE: In the private sector, the retirement age is, well depending actually on one’s job. An athlete may retire at 30. Most boxers retire at 35 actually. Corporations have pegged retirement at age 45. In the military, it is 56. In government, where I belong, it is 65. In the judiciary and the Church, it is 70. In my case, I think 60 is ideal. I would have bowed out when I reached 55 but I have as yet to make up my mind because I had no idea then where to spend the rest of my retirement years ahead. Well, now, more or less, I know already.
I: How do you intend to spend your retirement years? There are cases where the retiree suddenly would weaken, would lose his bearing and eventually, well, gets incapacitated and becomes a vegetable.
GE: It could happen, you are correct there. I know a lot of retirees who eventually succumbed to sickness, their health degenerated. Their new found freedom, lack of stress, lack of hassle and pressure would contribute health hazards in terms of undisciplined intake of food, lack of exercise and movement. The retiree also would no longer be compelled to read updates and would rather spend the entire day sleeping. On top of Alzeimers, he gets muscular atrophy and then his heart would weaken side by side his declining memory. You are correct there. In my case, my hands are full and I will never fall flat on inactivity.
I: So, there is actually no retirement for you, just a paradigm shift.
GE: You hit it correctly. You know, in government, work is a sacrifice. You do your job properly, you are watched, observed for any error. Do your job exceptionally well, you become a target for intrigue. Exhibit initiative, you become a suspect. Government service does not require extraordinary diligence, just be ordinary. Do better; you are to be doubted already. Imagine working for years being watched closely and considered dubious at that. In retirement, one gets off from being a suspect. One is freed from being intrigued. One is free to be extraordinary, to be greater, to be exceptionally accepted. That is what retirement is all about, a shift in paradigm.
I: You mean, government service is reserved for the average worker only?
GE: Government service is not a form of livelihood. You want to get your comeuppance, organize a business. Government service is no stage for the brilliant. You want recognition, go to the private sector. In the private sector, initiative is highly respected. In government, initiative is a crime.
I: How do you see yourself now that you are about to leave government service?
GE: A bit frustrated. Bureaucrats never had a real life in the service of the people; they are restricted by layers of rules and fears. I could have done better, I could have accomplished much, I could have offered more sacrifices. Early retirement affords me a period when I would still be agile enough to get back at those who ruined government service.
I: But how come there are a lot of people who wanted to get into the bureaucracy and even spending a fortune to get elected just to work in government?
GE: That is also one of the reasons I wanted to retire, I have had so much of hell already.
A Chinese sage once said that when a door lock can be opened by ANY key, then it is no good. But when a key can open 10 door locks then it is called a MASTER KEY. This was his response when asked how he views a lady’s man or what we pejoratively refer to as playboy.
Of course, every culture has its respective nuisance with respect to what womanizing or infidelity is all about. There are those that considered such acts as manly and therefore a favorable character trait. In some conservative cultures however, it is frown at. Liberal communities to a certain extent would not make fuzz about it but in some sectors; it is considered a high crime. And you can find them everywhere. They may be Presidents, Dictators, or Kings. They may also be vagabonds, heel or criminals.
Let us hear what the local playboy will say about it.
Interviewer: We know this is personal, you may answer this question or not, Sir. Are you married?
I: Have you any serious relationships with women Sir?
P: A lot. As a matter of fact, I have several serious relationships with several women. I love them all. I respect them all. I am even willing to sacrifice everything and if push will come to shove, die for all of them.
I: Have you any particular liking for anyone of them, say, your favorite?
P: None. All of them have become a part of me. And if anyone should pass or move on, dropping me or hearing nothing of me, it is like a part of my body has been severed. You know, women compliment my entire being. Each of them represents a specific significant function. They represent my totality. I am today what they collectively have given me. One of them gets off, I become disabled. All of them depart, then I become a zombie.
I: If given a choice, whom would you favor? The one you fell in love with the first time? The one with money and property? The one who is servile? The youngest of all? The most charming of all?
P: Like I said, all of them. But don’t get me wrong. I am not a believer of India’s caste system. Neither would I subscribe to the Arab’s harlem tradtion. I don’t know where my classification is. Most probably like an entertainer, the mold of Lou Salvador with hundreds of children from different beautiful women, or a Dolphy perhaps, or Ramon Revilla, whatever. I never have their charm in the first place but there is proximity somewhere, well, as far as treating our women is concerned. The point is: all my women are all my ladies, are all my queen and they deserve the majestic treatment. I will even go to hell for them.
I: You mean they are all living under one roof in your care?
P: Well, not necessarily. They have their own respective turf. I would look at it this way, it’s like the Solar System where I am the Sun, and they are all planets circling around me.
I: knock on wood Sir, should you pass away, how do see what will happen to your remains?
P: Of course, I have no more consciousness by that time, although my plan is cremation. I will be a dust by then. I may be on the ground, at sea or if it would be scattered, in every nostril of those around.
I: Do you have any advice for those guys who may try to follow your footsteps?
P: Be a bachelor for life!
There is a correlation between imprisonment and poverty anywhere in the world. An accused contracts legal services but has nothing to give except promises and a pitiful demeanor, he gets poor defense preparation. In the court of law, poor defense is no defense at all. As a matter of fact, given all the technical provisions of our judicial system, it is even fatal. And what happens is that when the side of the accused has not been properly covered by a defensive line in jurisprudence, not given an alert response even from the bench vis a vis charges, then it is as certain as day and night, conviction will follow.
This is not an exceptional situation. It is even presumed that this situation is more prevalent, more widespread and ubiquitous. And why not? Litigation is expensive. Attending a court hearing is even more depressing economically. It rubs salt to a wound. It is painful and dehumanizing, never mind humiliation. It is better to be convicted and get it on than maintain innocence without proper competent representation.
While there are always reliefs in the judiciary, the discovery of truth is excruciatingly slow and tedious. The number of acquittal stares a prison administrator in the eye. After years of serving time in prison, at times more than a decade or a summer less than a decade, cases of acquittal would disturb the headcount in the prison community. Somewhere within the community of convicts, one realizes, is someone without guilt at all.
Universe is bothered in such a situation. Humanity suddenly is reduced to anxiety. If it is indeed something that does not exempt an innocent to be lumped into a crowded place for the guilty, then God forbid what is in store for mankind in terms of acquiring justice. There is no guarantee is this life when truth should be understood as passport for freedom, let alone the basis for purity is measured through evidence. While evidence can be manufactured and bended, truth cannot. Yet evidence weighs more than any truth speculated.
The country’s, or any country for that matter, legal system pales when confronted with an incident requiring appreciation of a case. At times, truth is nowhere unless volunteered. It is always evidence which is oftentimes at the behest of the resourceful and those with resources that is always invoked. The poor is usually at the bottom of a merciful round.
In prison, one cannot determine the guilty from innocent except in instances when the courts would issue a verdict on exoneration. It is only then that a prison officer is unsettled for treating everyone as a stereotype or statistic on criminality.
Verily, truth lies deep under the ground where poverty is lurking. Poverty buries the truth no matter what. Make poverty the main agenda to be eradicated and we have freed the truth. Truth will not make anyone free unless it is given a life of its own. Without concern for progress, good governance and a dedication for searching the truth, there one remaining act that must be done: construct more prisons.
A prison facility is designed to house an exact number of populations. That is the ideal. You compress more people into it, more than what the facility can chew, you choke it. In the same manner that a house is a dwelling place constructed according to the number of family members intending to use it. If the facility could no longer contain what is obtaining then it is either, the residents would decline admission or if there is no other way, a restructuring of the house or facility is in order.
New Bilibid Prison complex has an accommodation level good for 10,000 inmates. To date, it has around 22,000 prisoners already. It is already filled to the brim, so to speak. Congestion rule the day. If a simple household is experiencing such a condition, misunderstanding and a host of other confusion would arise. This would serve as the fuse that would ignite trouble. An ordinary household however can easily address this situation by declining further admission or requiring the excess number to leave pronto.
This cannot be done in prison. It cannot disregard a court order on the admission of a prisoner without the threat of contempt. If congestion is incumbent, administrators must be resourceful in addressing it. There are approaches which can still be applied—routinely or out of the box. Additional structures can still be introduced if the concerned has the necessary resources to volunteer. Or, the camp may be loosened on the entry of donation if there is dearth of capital outlay in transporting prisoners in other penal establishments or in building structures to house excessive population.
New Bilibid Prison, specially the maximum security camp, has been unfortunately neglected administratively for years. It is never intentional though neither it is premeditated. There is lack of understanding from those who were given the task of managing the affairs of the prison community and if at all there are attempts, these were diluted by stronger leadership influence yielded by some prisoners with exceptional talents and political connections. Security requirements at times collide with social and welfare demands of the prison community. Prison rules to a large extent reduce the principles of human rights. Remember that the fountainhead of human rights is freedom. Rehabilitation programs could not manifest its genuine applicability because of the ruse created by the tension of security and social strains of the prison camp.
It has been said that NBP has been transformed into a special community than a facility. It is rightly so because government has no imposing resources to control the human factor. The influx of prison admission is like urban migration in its extreme form. In a situation where there is virtually more warm bodies than stale cages, it is the human spirit that yields considerable influence over anything that restricts it. As the saying goes, “Man is not an island.” Include a number of them and lump them all up in a dingy corner, chances are, they would transform it into a paradise in no time at all. They would formulate an environment that could sustain their survival than rely on static nuances of his surroundings. They can simulate life in a commandingly dead or hopeless situation.
While the cryptic peace that is haggled may be suspect and could even inspire a host of reactionary movements by administration by disturbing the harmony of life in the prison community, the potential of its destructive posture can only be unleashed with fatal consequence. There is an idiom that says, “Don’t stir up the hornet’s nest.”
There is just one instance prisoners could not redesign their place notwithstanding their number and talents. It is in changing prison into another. A prison camp no matter how convoluted it is seen from outside or socially fitted from within is still a prison camp.
Gertrude Stein in her poem Sacred Emily wrote “a rose is a rose is a rose.” In the same vein, a prison is a prison is a prison. And that’s it.
There is truth in climate change. But don’t blame your friends for burning plastic wares in their back yards, nor yell at kids using spray deodorant. You may also drop any pretension on suspecting your friendly carpenter for patronizing lumber because the wood they are using are trees maintaining climatic balance. All these insinuations and more are all fed to us through misdirection. They constitute hogwash.
Now listen to this. There are eight sovereign states (USA, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, China, India, Pakistan and Korea) that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons. There are even countries not listed as member of the so called Nuclear Club with nuclear capabilities like Israel and Africa. Countries with nuclear weapons are testing, almost detonating at will, their nuclear arsenals by firing in the deep ocean their own versions. The power is awesome that everything within the explosive sphere would shake and rattle down to the site’s foundation, disturbing everything from rock formation to tectonic plates. And these military exercises are not done in a mere isolated instance. It is almost a grand display of awesome military might. It is strengthening their capabilities for purposes of control. And it is conducted almost regularly!
When high end or complex bombs are detonated in the ocean, its flooring would crack depressing plates that contribute to earthquakes, tidal wave and tsunamis. The waters would explode and the atmosphere radiated to the extent that the flow of wind, the volume of vapors swept upwards, add to whatever cloud formation there is. This is a birth of storms, greater ones at that. The intensity of the disturbance created is expressed in similar effect on the planet, not only in the deep waters but also on islands in a domino fashion.
US, Iran, Korea, China, etc all have nuclear capabilities which have already passed the quality control of their military principals. And every time there is a discovered advantage not only in design but in the destructive property of the bomb, it would surely be tested, either on the ground or in the waters. Well, mostly in the deep waters where spooks would never take note of what is happening.
As a consequence of these mighty explosions, done with such regularity, the earth’s position tilted to a certain degree. Note that the constant gravitational pull of the sun and the moon provides climatic formation which the planet would repetitively experience. But when the earth tilts to another direction, there will naturally be changes, climate changes to be exact. Canada and Northern America is experiencing what scientists refer to as winter storm, a normal incident if it is only on the North Pole. On the other end of the globe, Syria is also battered by worst winter storms.
In Southeast Asia, especially in Southern Philippines (Mindanao) storms would surprisingly visit the islands, strong ones which natives could not understand since they have never experienced typhoons for an entire stretch of several generations. Yet these climatic conditions are normally a weather occurrence in Northern Philippines, well, except for the greater intensity each tropical depression brings into the affected islands and its inhabitants.
In other words, the whole world is experiencing abnormalities in its weather condition. It is precisely because we, well, it’s actually the military establishments of world powers, have added another dimension to natural volcanic eruptions with powerful bombs detonated in various corners of the world. The constant explosions push the earth to tilt and its axis literally bended causing the planet to rotate in another side. One day, the Philippines, a tropical country, may find itself extremely in a spot we call North Pole! Now, that is what climate change is all about.
Next time you experience something unusual in your environment, don’t accuse your neighbors.